Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Night at the Movies


If you've ever gotten the impression that I'm not exactly up-to-date on the movie scene, you're absolutely right. I've got a list of excuses as long as my arm -- in excess of three feet, shoulder to fingertips -- but lack of interest is nowhere on it. I love movies and the latest Harry Potter flick got me hooked on IMAX and 3-D. All I have to do is walk into a theater and smell fresh popcorn, and it never fails, somewhere down inside I'm ten years old again.

Ultimately, the main reason I'm behind is cost. I'd betray my age if I told you ticket prices I recall, so as singer Jim Croce would say, "let's forget all that." My point is, it's darned near prohibitive, on a medical student's salary, to see first-run movies. And, unfortunately, the neighborhood movie house, as they used to be called, is a fond memory tucked away in American history. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, movies used to arrive first at downtown, upscale theaters. There they'd run for a few weeks before transferring to smaller, less expensive and less fancy theaters down the street from where most of us lived.

As a kid, Saturday afternoons were easily spent with my best buddy at the Woodlawn (isn't that a great name?), munching candy and watching double features. With the advent of the shopping mall and multiple screens, the local guys could no longer compete. Now, at least in my hometown of Denver, many of them have become venues for live music. That's a good thing, really, because it preserves the art deco architecture that was in its heyday in the 1920s and has become part of our cultural heritage.

Some towns, Dallas for example, have or used to have, dollar theaters. The seats weren't quite luxurious and the sound systems usually dated, but, hey, for a buck what can you expect? It was cheap and it beat paying several times that amount to see a film that had yet to go to DVD. The closest I can approximate that today is the automated dispenser at the grocery up the street.

True, my living room isn't the Paramount and the lounge chair I inherited from my parents isn't fitted with cup holders. Nor do I have the experience of surround sound and a screen wide enough to lose myself in the drama. But I can hit the pause button while I take my dog outside or skip backwards to hear a line that bears repeating in casual conversation. Peter Jackson and the Olympians was out in June and now it's available on DVD -- two months, that's not too bad.

The disadvantage isn't so much that I'm at a loss when someone asks what I think of the newest blockbuster. It's more that I don't have anyone to come around after "a night at the movies" to vacuum the carpet and collect the trash. I know, I need to have kids.


(Creative Commons image of Denver's Gothic Theater by DenverPam via Flickr; Operator by Jim Croce, copyright 1972)

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